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Saputo won't buy milk from B.C. farm where video showed cattle being abused

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MONTREAL - Dairy food giant Saputo Inc. (TSX:SAP) is no longer accepting milk from Chilliwack Cattle Sales, a British Columbia farm where a number of employees were captured on video beating cattle, and says it is leading the charge for reform in animal treatment.

"Since Saputo learned of the animal abuse at the farm in British Columbia from which horrific images of cattle mistreatment were captured, the company has used its position as Canada's largest milk processor to ensure the situation is being addressed and that such reprehensible behaviour . . . does not occur in the future," Saputo said in a statement Monday.

The Montreal-based company said it has reached out to the province's minister of agriculture as well as the B.C. Dairy Association, the B.C. Dairy Council and the B.C. Farm Industry Review Board.

"Saputo has taken the lead in bringing industry stakeholders together behind a common goal: to ensure immediate consequences for those involved and enforceable legal measures to prevent future animal abuse," it said.

It said it also supports the recommendation of the B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals that the Canadian Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle, published in 2009, be adopted into B.C. law.

In announcing its action, Saputo noted that it does not own or operate any dairy farms in British Columbia or anywhere else in Canada and, like all dairy processors in Canada, is required by law to purchase milk from provincial milk marketing boards.

"While we do not own the farms, we care deeply about the way the milk we sell is produced. We will not accept milk from the B.C. Milk Marketing Board supplied by this farm until we are fully satisfied that strict animal welfare practices are in place," it said.

Chilliwack Cattle fired eight employees after the group Mercy for Animals Canada took the video to authorities. The SPCA has recommended criminal charges against them but to date no charges have been laid and nothing has been proven in court.

The farm's owner, Jeff Kooyman, has described the video as "horrifying to watch" and said he didn't know what got into the young men seen kicking, punching and beating the animals with pipes.

Kooyman has said the dairy operation — the country's largest, with more then 3,500 animals — will put in security cameras that will be monitored and would work with the SPCA on better training for staff.

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